Boing Boing wrote up Carl Malamud’s latest project – this one to convince the law school owners of the standard for legal citation, The Bluebook, to donate it back to the public. Here’s the broader issue of which The Bluebook is but a piece. The LAW is a written system of rules for society — procedurally a collection of systems has evolved that we are kind of stuck with unless we collectively convince ourselves to move to something better: more efficient, more open, etc. (Much like VOTING which in the U.S. as a reality is a kludge of systems and customs developed over the lifetime of the nation). There are a few places where particular publishers essentially have a legacy copyright interest in material that from commonsense point of view should clearly be in the public domain and disseminated and shared in the most open and efficient ways technology currently allows.
The system of law runs from the creation of laws (the entirety of the legislative process at both the federal and state level) to their official publication (those are the words that you need to cite to when utilizing the law) to administrative agencies procedures to create regulations under the authority of those laws (including the official publication of those regulations) to the entirety of our judicial system which interprets and enforces our laws and regulations. All of this is incredibly important to democratic society and the time is more than ripe for a serious redesign of how we capture law into legal documents that takes advantage of our digital, interconnected world.
Ideally, all laws, regulations, and court decisions are published OFFICIALLY in a machine readable format that follows a simple and public domain CITATION SYSTEM (which could easily be a system of numbering documents and numbering paragraphs) so that the digital document is the OFFICIAL copy (of course that doesn’t preclude creating all kinds of archived back-up copies in paper or any other media). That’s STEP ONE — with STEP TWO building on it to move to a GITHUB, VERSION-CONTROL process for LAW. All of which in many ways, big and small, would make the law MUCH MORE accessible to everyone.